Friday, June 26, 2009

Not-As-Sweet Drinks Might Prevent People From Being Obese or Overweight!

In United States, there are more than two-thirds of the population is either overweight or obese. Being obese or overweight, one is subject to a higher risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension), stroke and even certain types of cancer.

With evidence that shows that sugary drinks are an important contributor to the epidemic of obesity and Type-2 diabetes in United States, nutrition experts urged soft drink makers to invent and market a new range of semi-sweet drinks that would help Americans free from reliance on sugary beverages.

A study by Harvard researchers on 90,000 women even found that women who drank more than 2 servings of sugary beverages each day had a nearly 40 percent higher risk of getting heart disease than women who rarely drank such drinks. The findings were published in the April 2009 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

On April 20, 2009, nutrition experts proposed a new category of reduced-calorie beverages containing no more than 1 gram of sugar per ounce. In other words, the proposed drinks contain about 50 calories, which is about 70 percent less sugar found in a typical soft drink. Furthermore, they should not have artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and saccharine.

Among the current available range of drinks, a 20-ounce (590 ml) bottle of soda contains nearly 17 teaspoons (255 ml) of sugar and 250 calories (1.05 kj).

It is hoped that with the new drinks, the present American norm could be shifted back to a lower expectation of sweetness so that people would adjust their palates, especially the younger population. Statistics show that 4 out of 5 children and 2 out of 3 adults drink sugar-sweetened beverages on any average day.

However, such proposal seem not welcome by the food and beverage makers, who blame people seldom or not exercise at all and argue that people should responsibly choose to eat snack foods.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Can Bone Marrow Help Heart Function Better?

Being the leading cause of death around the world, heart disease could be caused by fats that harden and block arteries, and high blood pressure that damages blood vessel. Other risk factors also include high blood cholesterol, overweight, obesity, diabetes, lack of physical activity, smoking, unhealthy diet, etc. Of course, family history of heart disease could be the cause too.

As reported on May 19, 2009 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, some patients with a chronic form of heart disease could feel better with the injection of bone marrow stem cells into their hearts. The infusions helped blood flow, reduced pain and helped patients exercise more.

Bone marrow stem cell therapy is being tested for a range of heart conditions, including for people with blocked arteries that reduce blood supply to the heart.

The study, carried out by Dutch researchers from Leiden University Medical Centre in the Netherlands, examined 50 people, with an average age of 64, who had chronic ischemia (blocked arteries). One group received about 8 injections of bone marrow cells while others got a placebo.

After 3 months, those who received the injections showed signs that their hearts pumped better and had improved blood flow, as compared with the others. Meanwhile, they also got greater improvements in the ability to exercise and scored higher on quality-of-life measurements than those men and women taking the placebo.

With the new findings in hand, the researchers would very likely to carry out trials to see whether the bone marrow stem cell therapy would help heart disease patients live longer.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

How Does Obesity Relate To Global Warming?

It has been known that overweight or obesity is closely linked to many medical disorders or diseases. For instance, obesity is definitely a risk factor for heart disease. Being overweight or obese, one is also at a higher risk of developing diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure) and certain types of cancer and so on and so forth.

Interestingly, a study even linked obesity to global warming. How did the scientists arrive at such a deduction?

The researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine believed obesity contributes to global warming too because these people need more fuel to transport them and the type of food they eat. In the paper published in the journal Lancet on May 16, 2008, the researchers worried that food shortages and higher energy prices would result, and the problem will get worse with the increase of the population.

A quick check shows that at least 400 million adults worldwide are obese. According to the projection by World Health Organization (WHO), 2.3 billion adults will be overweight and more than 700 million will be obese by 2015.

In the study, the researchers pegged 40 percent of the global population as obese with a body mass index (BMI) of near 30. The researchers found that obese people need 1,680 daily calories to sustain their normal energy and another 1,280 calories to maintain the daily activities. This is 18 percent more than that required by people with normal BMI.

BMI, calculated by dividing the weight (kg) by the square of the height (m), is commonly used to determine whether one is overweight or obese. The normal range falls between 18 and 25. One is considered overweight when the BMI exceeds 25 and obese when BMI exceeds 30.

As thinner people eat less and are more likely to walk instead of relying on cars, a slimmer population would reduce the demand for fuel and for agriculture. One should not forget that 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions stem from agriculture.

Perhaps, the next task for the researchers is to quantify how much a heavier population is contributing to climate change, higher fuel prices and food shortages. Meanwhile, it is important to promote normal distribution of BMI as this would help reduce global demand for, and so the price of, food.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Can Meditation Help Reduce Heart Disease and Stroke Risk?

Hypertension, or what is more commonly known as high blood pressure, is definitely a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Therefore, when one is diagnosed with hypertension, his or her doctor will prescribe hypertensive medication for reduction of blood pressure.

Besides drugs, there are also other ways such as diet and exercise can help reduce blood pressure. In fact, a study, which was carried out by researchers from the University of Kentucky in Lexington and published in the American Journal of Hypertension, reported that practicing a particular type of meditation twice a day could significantly reduce blood pressure.

The findings also indicated that the blood pressure reductions associated with regular practice of transcendental meditation (TM) would actually translate to a 12 to15 percent reduced risk of dying from cardiovascular causes and a 15 to 20 percent lower risk of stroke.

Besides TM, there are a number of different types of meditation and relaxation techniques. However, TM is unique in a way that it can bring the practitioner into a quiet zone that acts as some kind of sanctuary for a person, refreshing them and reducing stress.

In TM, a person sits in a comfortable chair for 20 minutes twice a day and attempts to quiet the mind by focusing on a mantra. It is simple but training is required for one to get into it.

In order to understand better the real benefits of practicing TM for people with high blood pressure, the researchers examined 9 trials that compared blood pressure changes in a group of patients practicing TM versus a so-called 'control' group. As some previous research on TM has been criticized as being biased and of poor quality, they analyzed the findings of only 3 clinical trials that they rated as being high quality.

Their analysis showed that TM reduced systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading) by 4.7 points and diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) by 3.2 points. Sustained blood pressure reductions of such magnitude, according to the researchers, could significantly reduce the risk of heart disease.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Would An Unemployed Person Face Higher Health Hazard?

The current financial crisis has caused many people losing their jobs and the unemployment rate globally has reached historic high level. A person, who is jobless, surely feels very depressed because his or her family would greatly be affected, especially when he or she is the sole income provider. Besides, losing the job might just make this person sick.

The unemployed workers who lost a job through no fault of their own were twice as likely to report developing new medical disorders like diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure) or heart disease over the next year and a half, compared to people who were continuously employed. Interestingly, the risk was just as high for those who found new jobs quickly as those who remained unemployed.

This was the finding reported in the early May 2009 by a researcher from Harvard School of Public in a study that analyzed detailed employment and health data from 8,125 individuals surveyed in 1999, 2001 and 2003 by the United States Panel Study of Income Dynamics.

The fact that poor health and unemployment are often closely related has long been known. Nevertheless, health experts have still not figured out whether unemployment triggers illness, or whether unhealthy people are more likely to leave a job, fired or being laid off.

In order to find out the answer, the new study looked specifically at people who lost their jobs through no fault of their own, for instance, because of a business failure or closure, and there is nothing related to their health conditions.

In the study, only 6 percent of people with steady jobs developed a new health condition during each survey period of about a year and a half, comparing to 10 percent of those who had lost a job during the same period. Whether the laid off workers had found new employment did not change the figure of a one in 10 chance of developing a new health condition.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Why Does Obesity Epidemic Prevail in United States?

In general, people gain weight because of over-eating or a lack of exercise or both. At an International obesity conference in Amsterdam held on March 8, 2009, researchers from the health faculty of Australia's Deakin University cited over-eating as the main cause for the American obesity epidemic. This is simply because physical activity could not fully compensate for the intake of excess calories.

When a person is overweight or obese, advice from his or her family doctor on losing weight would surely emerge as numerous medical disorders like diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), stroke and certain types of cancer will most likely be developed. This also means that the risk of having heart disease is much higher.

As revealed by the study, American children had grown on average of 4 kilos heavier over the past 3 decades with adults putting on an extra weight of 8 kilos.

What Americans should weigh today based on their current, higher food intake was calculated and compared to their actual weight. When the weight was found to be more than projected would imply a drop in physical activity.

The findings suggested the American adults had been increasing their physical activity. Same deduction also applied to American children leading the researchers to conclude that changes in physical activity had had no impact on American children growing fatter. The researchers also believe similar findings would probably apply for other developed countries.

In order for the Americans to return to their leaner bodies in the 1970s, children would have to reduce their intake by about 350 calories a day (equivalent to 1 can of fizzy drink and a small portion of French fries) and adults would need to cut theirs by about 500 calories a day (equivalent to a Big Mac burger). The alternative way is to walk for an extra of 2-and-half hours a day for children and nearly 2 hours for adults.

Nevertheless, the extra walking of nearly 2 hours a day is not a feasible option for people to counter the obesity epidemic, according to the researchers. Instead, they suggest people should pay more attention on the energy intake side rather than on the physical activity. In other words, Americans must eat less.

The findings, however, did not mean to dispute the value of physical activity for weight management and overall health.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Worrisome Obesity Rate Among American Preschoolers!

The health professionals and experts have been expressing their concerns on the climbing of obesity rate among teenagers and young children. Their concerns are inevitable because obesity could be the cause of developing many health problems, such as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure) and even certain types of cancer, for these youngsters later in their life. Meanwhile, this phenomenon could lead to economic disadvantages not only for these youngsters but also for their countries, if not managed appropriately.

In order to find out if a person is of a healthy weight, body mass index (BMI) is usually used. BMI is calculated by dividing a person’s weight (in kilos) by the square of his or her height (in meter). The higher the BMI, the greater is the risk for obesity and health problems. Children were considered obese once their BMI falls within the 95th percentile or higher based on government BMI growth charts.

A recent study carried out by public health researchers from Ohio State University reported in April 2009 that almost 1 in 5 American 4-year-olds is obese and the rate is alarmingly higher among Americans Indian children, with nearly a third of them are obese.

Seeing differences by race at such an early age was rather shock to the researchers. In the meantime, they also found that more than half a million 4-year-olds are obese.

As indicated in the findings, obesity is more common in Hispanic and black youngsters too. However, the disparity is most startling in American Indians, whose rate is almost double of whites.

The magnitude of these differences was indeed larger than what the researchers expected. Moreover, the researchers were also surprising to see the differences by racial groups occurred at so early in childhood.

In terms of percentage, almost 13 percent of Asian children were obese, along with 16 percent of whites, almost 21 percent of blacks, 22 percent of Hispanics, and 31 percent of American Indians.